It’s fashion show season. Again. It always seems to be. But with the autumn/winter 2013 womenswear circuit underway, the biggest story to emerge is not about a drastic change in skirt length. No, it's that the circuit has become a circus.
It started with an editorial during the New York shows by Suzy Menkes – one of the more sensible voices in the industry – despairing that OTT attendees were themselves becoming the show. Nothing new here really – we've all lamented the unstoppable rise of the bloggers and the blanket nonsense of street style for some time. But Menkes’ call for her colleagues to forego decorous displays of attention-seeking and act with decorum instead threw the situation into sharp focus. It’s a call to arms that has stayed with me and the more I think about its need, the more disturbing I find it. It’s not so much that fashion bloggers are something to be feared but more that life, not just the show circuit, is turning into a circus. Everything’s become a performance.
We all play starring roles in our own social media profiles and supporting parts in those of our friends or followers. It’s a constant battle to entertain, show-off, share; a constant quest to gather an ever-larger audience, always hungry for a greater performance. The unholy alliance of smartphone and social media has rendered us actors, always on stage. “If it’s not on Instagram it never happened,” a friend and vocal social-media cynic joked recently after snapping me in a compromising position. Worryingly, he posted it anyway. Even more worryingly I asked him the next day how many “likes” it had received and was disappointed to be told “not that many”. I must do something even more outrageous next time, I thought to myself.
Another lady told me as we got ready for a party that she was “getting dressed for Facebook”. And later that night I saw someone film their friend being sick outside a bar – 10 years ago they would have been rubbing their back, not uploading a video. Smartphones encourage stupid people to boast on social media about their antisocial behaviour. Happy-slapping barely makes headlines any more but I fear it’s not because it doesn’t happen.
So where does it end? Social media sites aren’t going to disappear and smartphones will only get smarter. As their joint assault continues to engulf us all, whether we like it or not, it’s up to us to recede graciously into the wings of the great theatrum mundi.
As Menkes called for decorum, so I add – to myself as much as anyone – let’s stop sliding backwards down banisters for the entertainment of our “friends” or “followers”. Let’s grow up a bit. Happiness and fulfilment in life does not come with 57 “likes”.
Hugo Macdonald is design editor for Monocle.